POEM: This is just to say…

pic of paper

I have broken
the vase
that was in
the living room

and which
you definitely
were giving
to your mother

Forgive me
it was ugly
so lumpy
and brown.

This poem is based on This is just to say… by William Carlos Williams.
Other poems and their structures can often provide inspiration for writing. Why not check his poem out here https://www.poetryfoundation.org/poems/56159/this-is-just-to-say and give it a go yourself.

 

 

Pulling A Blank

 

22504F9C-90B1-4611-B70F-22C901E5A62C.jpeg

You will have noticed I haven’t written an entry for my blog for a while. There is no great mystery behind it. I was not kidnapped, transported to another planet or plummeted into a mystical realm like the children of Narnia. No. It is quite simple. I was going through what many writers go through at various points when writing: writer’s block.  I just couldn’t think of anything to write for my blog.

Maybe it was because my creative energies were being sapped by two other things: submitting my second book to Literary Agents (time consuming and somewhat soul destroying) and compiling the notes on my third book before settling down to editing proper. I’m still at both of these and they have become my obsessions.

This meant I had less time to just let my wander and play in the quiet moments. This is an essential part of writing. If you are told to ‘just write,’ often you’re mind goes immediately blank.

That’s why writing at school can be really hard. The blank page and your teacher asking you to come out with some great story just like that. And there are all the things you are told to remember: fronted adverbials, alliteration for effect, a simile or metaphor or two. No wonder you mind just freezes. How can anyone write under such pressure?

Take a moment and put your pencil down. Stare out the window. Watch the trees in the breeze, traffic passing or the rain fall. Take some calming breaths. Think about what you are interested in: A TV programme you watched; a computer game you play; a song you like; a pet you cuddle… Make that your story.

There are no rules when writing stories. You can have happen whatever you want. You are the magical master. If you want a tap-dancing zebra as a class teacher, so be it! You want to be skiing on the skin of a bowl of custard, go on! It is your world. Rule it.

POEM: Beauty is…

Beauty

 

Beauty is a warm summer’s day
Beauty is a baby’s first smile
Beauty is a kiss from a mother
Beauty is the symmetry of a square
Beauty is the taste of hot chocolate
Beauty is the laughter of children
Beauty is the red of a scented rose
Beauty is the heart of my love

 

I should explain a little bit about this poem. It was written to help teach a group of Year 3 about metaphor and provide a simple stylistic model for their own poem. It also can provide a stimulus for Philosophy4Children (another interest of mine).

POEM: My Sister Loves Worms

Girl with wormA

My sister loves worms
She loves how they wiggle
My sister loves worms
She loves how they jiggle
My sister loves worms
Wherever they are found
My sister loves worms
Under muddy ground
My sister loves worms
On her comfy bed
My sister loves worms
On her silky head
My sister loves worms
Sat on our telly
My sister loves worms
Squirming in her belly

How To Write Badly…

sleepy writer1

So you have finally decided to write that story or book.  Let me tell you all the things you need to do to not get to the end and fail at your task.

1) Keep re-working that first chapter. That’s write. Why go on to the next part of the story when you can spend all your time endlessly re-writing the first part so it becomes perfect. After all, it’s not like most writers end up cutting the first chapter/part anyway as they started the story in the wrong place, is it?

2) Make sure you have access to Twitter, Facebook, Messenger or any other social media. You need to be constantly updated on the latest cake picture and cat video. You need to lose yourself down the rabbit hole of messages. Social media is catnip to writers and should be engaged at every opportunity rather than actually doing any writing on your story.

3) Surround yourself with lots of noise. Why not put the TV on as well or a playlist with good vocals? Nothing works better to help you lose your train of thought when you are being constantly…

4) Make sure you drink loads. Have lots of tea, coffee or fizzy drinks. It easily breaks the flow if you’re constantly sipping and having to run to the loo. Also, adds a sense of urgency.

5) Play a video game. You know you want to. Just get to the end of the level and then you’ll stop. Well, maybe, just one more level. Oh, is that the time. I’ll do some writing tomorrow, I promise.

6) Keep re-drafting your plan. In fact, invest in lots of colour pens and sticky labels to add a bit of colour to it all. What about a character spreadsheet mapping out all the history and interests of all the characters? I know you won’t use any of it but preparation is key.

7) Read a few books about writing. Better safe than sorry. Best to learn the craft from a book rather than actually doing a bit of writing. Maybe attend another writing course. Better still, re-read this blog post until you have memorised it.

8) Stare at the page. Fill yourself with nagging doubt and hesitate. Tell yourself it won’t be as good on the page as it is in your head. Whatever you do, don’t begin. Don’t put words down. You’re only setting yourself up to fail.

 

 

 

Writing Goals for 2019

So it is a new year and with every new year it is time to set some writing goals for the next 12 months (their like resolutions for writers). So here are mine.

  1. Finish submitting elf book to literary agents. It would be easy for me to let this aspect of writing to slip. I’ve had positive responses but need to follow up and send some more out. It is the process I find most frustrating as it takes so much time to get a response and I want to be pushing forward. A year can go by easily as you wait for replies from agents. And some don’t even use email!
  2. Complete work in progress and a rewrite. This is currently going a bit slow for me. It is mainly due to me: I’m writing out of my comfort zone; I have the most characters I’ve ever dealt with; I’m dealing with a multi-layered plot. This one is hard.
  3. Write lesson plans to go with Wishbone Billy. This is an. idea I’ve had for a while. I have a background of working in schools and I’m sure teachers would be grateful of any materials to make their planning easier. This would also tie in nicely with me offering free school visits.
  4. Complete exciting school visits and visit to Cub Scout group. I have again been invited to schools for World Book Day  this year and also a local Cub Scout group to help them with their book badge. I always love meeting readers and writers, and discussing what excites them. I want to do more!
  5. Not to worry if I don’t complete my goals. Writing books and everything that goes with writing can easily lead you to be overly worried, especially when things are not going well. Writing should be fun and you should not worry if you don’t do everything you set out to do. Keep your cool, take a breath and be happy with what you do get done.

Well, those are my goals for the year. I think they are quite challenging as I can easily get distracted at times from the task in hand. But this year, I’m going to be a new me. (so I lie to myself).

The Writer’s Life

Writing and pen

When I visit schools, children often ask me questions about being a writer and what it is really like so I thought I would attempt to answer some of the most common questions I am asked here.

Are you rich?
The answer is no. Most writers are not rich. The average yearly wages for a writer is £10,500 so that means most writers have another job as well, like me. Unless, you are super succesful like JK Rowling. Then you can write all the time. I’m afraid to say I don’t live in a big house and have twenty-eight cats. I have two and a goldfish.

Are you famous?
No. Very few writers get recognised on the street. The ones that do tend to have been celebrities before they became writers, like David Walliams. They were famous for something else first. Of course, there are a few exceptions like Michael Rosen, Roger McGough or Anthony Horowitz who have also been on TV after their books became well-known. I’ve only been recognised in the street once by a girl whose school I had visited. She yelled, “Look, there’s that writer who came to my school. He’s going into that house!” Otherwise, I walk about never noticed. I could be sat by you and you wouldn’t know.

What do you do when you write? What’s it like?
When I write, I take myself out of the house away from distractions like the TV, cats, fish, reliable internet and go to a place I call ‘the office.’ There I can get endless cups of coffee for just £1.25.
I settle down at the table, look at the outline of my book I’m currently working on, open up my tablet and keyboard and begin writing. I write using a programme called Scrivener which was specially made for writers. While I write, I usually listen to music without voices to cut out any background noise that may distract me and put me off. I might write non-stop for an hour or three. It depends how easily the writing is coming. As I write, I talk to nobody except my characters and imagined audience. They are my only concern.
Writing can be lonely. You sit by yourself, not speaking, not knowing if your writing is any good or worth reading. You just hope it is and carry on. That is why I am also a member of two Writing Groups. There, I share my work, find out what people think of it, if my jokes work, and talk about writing issues such as the best way to solve a problem with point of view.
Sometimes things are different. Sometimes I get to meet my readers when I am invited to a school to do a talk or run writing workshops. Then I get to share my love of writing and talk about books and we do some writing together. It’s great fun.

Have you written any other books?
Yes. Three others but they’re not published yet. One is for grown-ups, one is a kind of Tolkien adventure, and another is about an elf which I’m sending to Literary Agents. I am also working on another one at the moment.

I hope all this helps clear up the things I’m most asked. If you’ve any other questions, just ask in the comment’s box below.

Little Devil In My Ear

There’s a condition that plagues all writers. If you come across a writer of any sort who says they never suffer this then they are a liar. It’s the Little Devil On Your Shoulder that whispers in your ear. Some psychologists call it imposter syndrome and writers may refer to it as writer’s block but I know better. It is an invisible devil that sits there waiting for you to write. Just as pen touches paper it begins it’s games. It tells you You Can’t Write. It laughs Call That A Sentence? It says Everyone Will Think That Rubbish!

My devil still pesters me despite kids secretly reading Wishbone Billy at night or having 5 star reviews on Amazon or receiving positive responses from my author visits. That devilish negative voice can be so loud. It stops you from writing anything. You procrastinate: watch junk TV, tidy the house, daydream. The pen lies still.

I am not the only writer to suffer the devil. Vivian Gornick, critic and journalist says of it: I would look at the words on the page – still do – and think, ‘This is so naive. This is so stupid. Who’s going to want to read this?’ It was even said of the brilliant Scott Fitzgerald of Great Gatsby fame that he fell into the devil’s hands after an estatic review from Gilbert Seldes. Poor Fitzgerald, after that every word had to be brilliant, every work deserving of high praise.

The devil by the ear attacks children too. I see it every day. It tells them they can’t write. It laughs at their efforts. Their page remains  empty. Their teacher grows impatient. What can be done? We must fight against the devil together.

Pick up that pen. Strike a blow to the devil’s head. Tie it up with adjectives, smother it in similes, drown it in metaphor. Let your pen roam free. It doesn’t matter what you write. It can be as sensible or silly as you want. You can write. You’ve been writing since your first crayon marks in nursery. Each word deserves an ovation. That devil knows nothing. Kick it away!

This piece of writing waas brought to you care of one squashed devil.